CROSSCUT: Already Stigmatized, Sex Workers Have Fewer Choices in a Pandemic

Sex work for Ganesha Gold Buffalo was never an easy job. Sometimes it was fun. Sometimes it was a necessity. Usually, it was enough to get by. And, as a transgender femme, it was one of the only jobs Gold Buffalo could rely on.

“I like to say that girls like me, girls like us, always end up in the realm of sex work in some way,” says Gold Buffalo, who uses the pronouns it and itself. “Because of our marginalization, we’re not only cast aside and devalued … but we’re hypervisible at the same, hyperfetishized.”

Still, it was steady work. While much of Gold Buffalo’s finances has come from its work as an organizer with the Black Trans Task Force, sex work was a key supplement. Gold Buffalo’s year hinged on paid go-go dancing gigs it annually lined up throughout Pride month, as well as money made for adult videos. Besides that, with so many others like Gold Buffalo in the sex working industry, too, it was a way of finding friends and community.

Read the Full Article Here: CROSSCUT: Already Stigmatized, Sex Workers Have Fewer Choices in a Pandemic

by Manola SeCaira

September 14, 2020

 


HUFFINGTON POST: What Being A Fat Sex Worker Taught Me About Men And Desire

Many times, when I tell women I used to do sex work, they look me up and down and say, “Really?” I probably get this reaction because I’m 5 feet 3 inches tall and weigh 230 pounds, and I don’t fit their preconception of what a sex worker looks like.

There are a lot of preconceived notions about sex workers held by the general public, and one of the strongest among them in my experience is the belief that sex workers all look like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” and that men only desire a sex worker who is skinny. I’m here to tell you that’s all false.

 

I don’t by any means have a perfect physique and am what my doctor calls “obese.” I have a big, round tummy covered in pink stretch marks, saggy boobs, areolas that my first boyfriend said looked “like pepperonis” and a mustache that requires regular waxing. I’m human and imperfect, and I worked as a successful escort for more than a decade. 

I started as a full-time escort on the now-defunct Backpage.com. I did not advertise myself as a “BBW” escort ― just merely an escort, like any other girls on Backpage. I never had any problem attracting business.


BITCH MEDIA: Dethroning Romance, Angela Chen Archives the Evolution of Asexuality

Science and tech journalist Angela Chen is asexual. So am I. Asexuality, or, generally speaking, the lack of sexual attraction, isn’t a new orientation, but the internet has made it significantly easier for people to learn about the identity’s nuances and meet like-minded friends and partners. In her new book Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, Chen—a friend of mine who I’ve come to know through asexual (or ace) circles—explores the identity not only in the context of how we develop our sense of self, but also in the context of our relationships with other people. This nonfiction, journalistic book isn’t just for the ace community—allosexual people (non-aces) can also benefit from considering a life that doesn’t prioritize sex and romance above all else.

Throughout the work, blurbed by Bitch editor-in-chief Evette Dionne, Chen interviews asexual and aromantic people of all stripes to construct a vivid portrait of how the identity intersects with others, including those based on race, gender, and disability. “I think more people are looking at the more negative sides of sex, [like] the way[s] sex has become so entwined with power structures and [how it] can be harmful,” Chen said. “Since the #MeToo movement, there’s been a shift [in how] we’re thinking about it.” In Ace, which was conceived before the Harvey Weinstein news broke in October 2017, she addresses this shift by teasing apart feminism from sex positivity, giving aces permission to focus on their own pleasure (sexual or not), not on their politics. Bitch spoke to Chen about the challenges of writing a book meant to reach both aces and allos, dethroning marriage and romance as the sole relationship ideals, and the evolution of her own identity.

As you were writing Ace, was it tough trying to appeal to both asexual and allosexual audiences?

Absolutely. There’s always a balance [to strike when] writing for aces; it means telling stories that are new to aces—not just telling them what they already know and have already read on websites and discussed on forums. At the same time, I have to [consider that] the general level of understanding around asexuality (beyond the definition) is very [narrow]. There [were] questions of how [to] make it interesting for aces and allos alike, how [to] make sure there’s enough new information that aces will find it valuable, [and also how to include accessible] discussion for allos who [are new to] the conversation.

Given ace stereotypes, did you feel pressure to not sound prudish, uptight, or boring as you explained a lot of nuanced terminology?

Yes. How much of that is [because of the] stereotypes and how much of that is [my own] neuroticism? It’s hard to separate. Because I know aces who don’t feel that pressure; I know aces who say, “I’m aware of those stereotypes, but I don’t feel the need to prove them [wrong].” Throughout the book, I try to be very fair-minded. I try to always be compassionate and say, “I’m not anti-sex. We’re fine if you love sex, and we’re fine if you love explicit content. We just want the narrative to be more balanced.” But there are times that I’m like, Do I have to be fair? Could I be more radical in what I said? I do feel that tension, and some of that is personal. But some of it is definitely because of these stereotypes and [not wanting people to assume] this is going to be a book about hating people who love sex, which is not the case.

Read the Full Article:

Dethroning Romance, Angela Chen Archives the Evolution of Asexuality by Julie Kliegman

Sept 8, 2020


JEZEBEL: Sex Workers Are Furious About Bella Thorne's Self-Serving OnlyFans 'Tourism'

Bella Thorne took to Twitter over the weekend to apologize over the controversy surrounding her newly-created OnlyFans. Just last week, the media lit up with news that the former Disney star had made $1 million dollars during her first 24 hours on OnlyFans, a premium social media platform that has become a vital source of income for many sex workers amid the pandemic, with Thorne claiming that she joined to conduct research for an upcoming project with the acclaimed director Sean Baker. In the days that followed, though, she was accused of engaging in fraudulent behavior on the site and triggering OnlyFans policy changes that harm sex workers. Now, in a multi-part Twitter thread, Thorne has apologized, claiming that she was trying to “remove the stigma behind sex, sex work, and the negativity that surrounds the word SEX itself by bringing a mainstream face to it.”

This has, appropriately, only led to more outrage.

After last week’s headlines about the million-dollar payday, there came allegations that Thorne had charged $200 for nudes that she failed to deliver, and which reportedly led to numerous refund requests from OnlyFans. She denied the allegations to the Los Angeles Times. (Thorne’s publicist did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.) That same week, OnlyFans introduced a policy change that rankled content creators, adding a 30-day wait period for payouts and restricting pay-per-view prices to $50. The company says the policy change wasn’t based on a single user, but many saw it as a response to the alleged chargebacks resulting from Thorne’s purported research. What’s more, Baker, the acclaimed director, came out to say that, counter to her initial claim, he is not working on this project with Thorne and had urged her to “consult with sex workers and address the way she went about this as to NOT hurt the sex work industry.”

Now, Thorne is on the defense—and her defense of “bringing a mainstream face” to OnlyFans has been met with skepticism. “I think it’s bullshit, frankly,” said Sinnamon Love of the BIPOC Adult Industry Collective. For one, Love points out, OnlyFans is already mainstream. At the start of this year, the platform was featured in the New York Times. Then came Beyonce’s famed shoutout in Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” remix. Earlier this month, Cardi B joined OnlyFans, but there were no big payday headlines and she was clear from the start about the nature of the venture: “No I’m not going to be showing my titties, or my pussy, or my ass,” she said. In contrast, Thorne promoted the launch of her OnlyFans with a video in which she wore a necklace reading “SEX” and pulled at the top of her pink bikini. As Love said of Thorne’s OnlyFans, “Stigma is not dismantled by a mainstream celebrity pretending to do sex work.”

 

Read the Full Article Here: Sex Workers Are Furious About Bella Thorne's Self-Serving OnlyFans 'Tourism' by Tracy Clark-Flory

September 1st, 2020


OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATION: The Multiplying Threats Facing Sex Workers Today

Amahle (not her real name), a sex worker and mother of a young daughter living in South Africa, has faced an almost total loss of income since her government imposed a nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the millions of other South African workers who’ve been negatively affected by the economic freeze, however, Amahle has received no government support in exchange for her lost earnings.

Predictably, she has struggled to pay her rent.

Amahle is not alone. With many governments around the world imposing drastic measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, sex workers have been pushed to the brink of financial desperation. Because sex work is not recognized as a “legitimate” profession, sex workers have been unable to access government relief programs in countries where sex work is criminalized. Without financial and social support, sex workers are slipping through the cracks.

By driving sex work further underground, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in violence, harassment, and abuse of sex workers. In Kenya, for example, incidences of violence against sex workers more than tripled during the first month of the pandemic, according to the Kenya Sex Workers Alliance. A sex worker in South Africa—Robyn Montsumi—died in the custody of police in April. Sex workers in South Africa experience systemic human rights violations and outright violence, discrimination, and harassment at the hands of the police at an alarming rate.

Thousands of sex workers have no other option but to continue working, placing their health and lives at risk to support themselves and their families. Driven by financial need, sex workers are more likely to agree to meet with clients they do not feel comfortable with or negotiate safety measures, such as condom use. Sex workers have also reported that clients are more likely to bargain over prices or push for services to be performed without condoms since COVID-19 measures were adopted in their countries.

Stay-at-home orders have also wreaked havoc on the provision of reproductive health services and life-saving treatment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. Sex workers in Rwanda, for example, have been unable to afford enough food to survive because of the lockdown.

Sex workers are also increasingly stigmatized by their communities, who perceive them as vectors for the spread of COVID-19. Sex workers—particularly those who are transgender, migrants, or women of color—are vulnerable to over-policing and punitive measures linked to the enforcement of COVID-19 regulations. The pandemic has also created a higher threshold for sex workers to report abuse, which creates a climate of impunity and exacerbates the risk of violence.

Read the Full Article:

The Multiplying Threats Facing Sex Workers Today by Stacey-Leigh Manuel

Sept 1, 2020


GQ: The Godmother of the Moment

Ceyenne Doroshow is halfway through packing a box of stilettos—some of them stoned, all of them glamorous—when I arrive at her place in Ozone Park, Queens. She's going to be moving in a few days, she tells me, and seems to be living in that exhausting space between here and there, the present and the future.

Adding to the chaos of the moment are the sudden demands of a new kind of mainstream fame. The praise is well deserved, if not a little overdue, but Doroshow is wary of it all the same. For years, she's been well known—revered, even—in New York's trans and sex-worker communities, where she's supported and advocated for vulnerable individuals. As founder and executive director of Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society, or GLITS, she's served as a kind of one-woman Swiss Army knife for those who've needed help of virtually any kind.

But recent events have catapulted her to new heights. On June 14, Doroshow spoke at Brooklyn Liberation, a hugely attended rally and march organized to demand action for Black trans people. The event was held, coincidentally, during a spate of shocking violence against Black trans women, including Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells, who were reported killed days earlier in Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively. Images of Doroshow at the podium with her black fur hat and Barbie-pink bandana, speaking to the crowd of 15,000, dominated news coverage, as did her galvanizing words. Video of her remarks spread like wildfire on social media, introducing countless straight, white, and cis people to the compassion and irreverence that have made Doroshow so beloved in her communities.

“We're whores!” she shouted when she reached the mic, perhaps as a way of clarifying her affinities first and foremost. “Babies, I love you,” she continued, her voice softening with a motherly tone. “I want you to breathe and sustain! I want you to stand tall and proud and Black and live,” she proclaimed, punctuating every other word with a swing of the folded black fan in her hand, as if she were banging a gavel and making it so.

The scene felt historic and, in many ways, unprecedented.

A similar New York rally the previous summer, demanding justice for Layleen Polanco—an adored member of the city's ballroom scene who died at Rikers Island—drew no more than a couple hundred people. Now there were 50 times that number cheering as Doroshow called on LGBTQ+ folks to put trans people first. “We have always been last,” she said. “That's not going to happen anymore.”

The protesters erupted in cheers as she spoke of past efforts supporting incarcerated trans women. They roared when she announced that GLITS had managed to raise $1 million that week to secure stable, long-term housing for Black trans people in New York. “Venmo @glits!” she added. “We're still raising money, motherfuckers!”

Read the Full Article:

The Godmother of the Moment by Harron Walker

Aug 27, 2020


MADAME NOIRE: Normalizing Kink For Black And Brown Folx

The fight for Black rights is ever-growing and ever-changing. Law enforcement is being reformed, congressional conversations on reparations are being revisited, and even businesses, celebrities, and influencers are being held accountable for their anti-Blackness. Although the Black community has seen a lot of progress, from an intersectional standpoint, Black activism spaces lack safety, recognition, and even solidarity for Black folx who are LGBTIA- identifying or lead alternative lifestyles. Within this subset, Black people who are sex and/or kink positive are frowned upon, often subjected to shame and judgment from others. As a Black fat womxn who exists at the intersection of these identities, it’s time to have conversations about what sex and kink positivity are and why they are important for Black liberation.

From a personal standpoint, kink and sex have been a big part of my journey into womanhood. Despite being a late bloomer, my interest in the kink lifestyle started when I was in my mid-to-late teens. I remember staying up late to watch Secretary, and how the power dynamic between James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s characters intrigued me. It was something about E. Edward Grey’s sternness and the way he chastised and punished Lee that captured my interest. From that moment, I knew I wanted to learn more about what I had seen. My curiosity grew as I matured, and when I finally entered adulthood, I decided to explore my desires by turning to kink-friendly groups online and different websites. In these virtual spaces, I met a lot of like-minded individuals that not only taught me about the ins and outs of kink, including the roles of dominants and submissives and the meaning of each letter in BDSM, but also became my friends and even partners. Although some of these redeemable qualities have played a critical part in shaping my sexual identity and have kept me coming back to the lifestyle, there was one major issue that always plagued my experience: the lack of Black people.

Just like most communities, kink is inherently white-centric. Being that the lifestyle is a broad umbrella term that encompasses so many different smaller communities and subcultures, a lot of these are made to fetishize Black and brown bodies. I can’t even count how many Carsons and Karens have slid into my inbox and expressed their desires for “a big, beautiful Black woman” and how I fit the bill for their next scene. I’ve even been approached by masters and mistresses in search of creating a dynamic with someone that virtually simulates slavery or a form of race play. Y’all, I’m totally not here to yuck anyone’s yum, but I also want to make one thing clear: there’s a definite difference between a fetish and fetishization, and the aforementioned anecdotes are examples of the latter.

Initially, I felt alone in my experiences, but after chatting with friends and colleagues, I realized I wasn’t the only one. Dawn, an educator and close friend, talked about how fetishization of non-white folx goes beyond the parameters of kink and extends into the realm of sex as well.

“I can’t log into Pornhub or XVideos without being bombarded with white pornstars and nothing that could even remotely resemble representation of someone like me,” she pointed out. “[On these sites] there are even videos that are titled in derogatory and racist ways. As for outside of the digital world, my encounters with white counterparts have been almost always, if not always, rooted in fetishization. Think: ‘I’ve never been with a (blank) before. Is it true that (blank)?’ [with] those blanks being filled with obscenities, ridiculous stereotypes, and dehumanizing rhetoric.”

Read the Full Article:

Normalizing Kink For Black And Brown Folx by Cheydavis14

Aug 20, 2020


DAZED: Sex workers protest censorship with this self-destructing digital art show

Social media sites have long been hostile to sex workers, unfairly censoring their posts, shadowbanning them, and often deleting their accounts. Many of those targeted haven’t even broken the (archaic and arbitrary) rules, but are simply moderated because of the line of work they’re in.

Now, in protest against this constant surveillance and discriminatory deplatforming, Veil Machine, a collective of New York sex workers, is hosting E-Viction, a self-destructing digital art show. The virtual arthouse will exist online for just 12 hours before disappearing – which the group describes as “the only deplatforming you can prepare for in advance”.

“Sex workers are often the digital pioneers,” Veil Machine co-founder Sybil Fury tells Dazed, “and we saw that during COVID-19. As soon as lockdown started, sex workers were innovating new ways to maintain their intimate connections with clients – from virtual strip clubs to Zoom sessions.”

E-Viction is our attempt to apply the kind of innovation that sex workers exhibit online in order to create a new form of digital protest,” she continues. “The protest is a response to the intersecting forces of digital gentrification and whorephobia, which have severely impacted sex workers’ ability to survive in a time when many of us are working online.”

Visitors can expect cam performances from sex workers and artists, educational material about online censorship and legislation that threatens sex workers, as well as “raunchy” chat rooms, performer ads, and an online shop selling art and sex toys. There will also be a destruction event happening for the last half hour of the show.

“This is a multi-elemental show with educational, fantastical, intimate, and mysterious components,” explains Veil Machine member Lady Euphoria. “The experiences will blur the lilnes of reality and fantasy, and inevitably, protest.”

However, given it’s happening online, the project hasn’t been without its hiccups – namely that Instagram tried to censor it (OFC). “In an attempt to reach our community and promote the show, we’ve been threatened with being deplatformed,” Lady Euphoria tells Dazed. “The irony here is what has initiated the threats. Instagram found our brightly coloured graphics to be ‘obscene’, ‘containing nudity’, and ‘violating community guidelines’.”

Read the Full Article:

Sex workers protest censorship with this self-destructing digital art show by Brit Dawson

Aug. 19 2020

E-Viction will take place on August 21, between 12PM and 12AM EST (5PM-5AM BST) at e-viction.net. Entry is free (but CashApp and Venmo donations are welcome), and you can RSVP here.


THEM.: UNPACKING KAMALA HARRIS'S RECORD ON TRANS AND SEX WORK ISSUES

Former Vice President Joe Biden revealed on Tuesday afternoon that he had chosen California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. The announcement, made via a text to supporters, sparked an outpouring of responses. Many hailed Harris as a favorable choice given her experience as a U.S. senator, having already been put through the media wringer as a former presidential candidate, and being the first woman of color ever to be a part of a major party’s presidential ticket. Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, is Black and Asian-American.

Among those to offer full-throated declarations of support for the newly minted Biden-Harris ticket were liberal heavyweights Bernie Sanders, Stacey Abrams, and Barack Obama, the latter of whom asserted that the vice presidential pick is the “first important decision a president makes.”

“Senator Kamala Harris is nothing short of an exceptional choice for Vice President,” said HRC president Alphonso David in a statement, noting Harris's role in ending the use of LGBTQ+ “panic” defenses and her fighting to overturn Proposition 8 in California as evidence of her pro-LGBTQ+ bona fides. Other positive aspects of Harris’s record on queer issues include her establishment of an LGBTQ+ hate crime unit as San Francisco district attorney and her early support of marriage equality. (Harris performed same-sex marriages herself when San Francisco briefly legalized the freedom to marry in 2004.)

But contrary to the Democratic establishment’s rosy assessment of Harris's vice presidential candidacy, a substantial cohort of progressives and leftists greeted the news with trenchant critiques of her career, both as a prosecutor (Harris was district attorney in San Francisco from 2004 until 2011, when she became California’s attorney general) and as a lawmaker in the U.S. Senate.

 

Read the Full Article Here: Them. ; Unpacking Kamala Harris's Record on Trans and Sex Work Issues 

 

By Wren Sanders

 

August 14th, 2020


W: FKA TWIGS AND KEHLANI START A CRUCIAL CONVERSATION ABOUT SEX WORK

It’s widely acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic has hit some workers, like those in the retail and service industries, harder than others. But that list rarely includes another profession suffering just as much, if not more. Sex workers are largely excluded from government relief packages, and in countries like Italy, poverty and fears of homelessness are forcing some to get back to work. The stigma, of course, only makes finding outside help that much worse.

Six months into the era of social distancing, FKA Twigs and Kehlani are stepping in. The past few days have seen both musicians use their platforms to demand action, along with a reevaluation of the ways we treat and perceive sex workers and strippers. “Sex workers deserve proper pay, protection, and to exist in their careers without consistent shame & violence,” Kehlani wrote when sharing her new music video, which features—and properly credits—nearly a dozen sex workers who’ve inspired her.

Kehlani also tapped the nonbinary abolitionist and community organizer, Da’Shaun L. Harrison, to create a PSA: Sex work “is a legitimate form of labor that must be decriminalized so as to function as a safe form of work for all sex workers,” the video concludes. “Black people—as well as Indigenous people and other people of color—deserve to be able to perform sex work without any limitations or stigmas attached, and this means that everyone must commit to learning from sex workers about sex work and sex workers’ needs.”

 

Read the Full Article Here: W: FKA Twigs and Kehlani Start a Crucial Conversation About Sex Work by Stephanie Eckardt

August 5th, 2020